HISD's MLK Competition Remembers the Man and Opens All Kinds of Doors

Brothers Nhedrick and Xedrick say they gained confidence in preparing for the MLK oratory competition.
Brothers Nhedrick and Xedrick say they gained confidence in preparing for the MLK oratory competition. Photo by Edrick Jabier
In 2017, Nhedrick Jabier became the first Puerto Rican student to win the Foley & Lardner MLK Jr. Oratory Competition for Houston after coming in first at his home school. On Friday, his younger brother Xedrick hopes to do well in the semi-finals competition and follow Nhedrick's example all the way to the finals in mid-January with his own three-to-five minute speech. 

In 2014, 7-year-old Nhedrick and 3-year-old Xedrick and their parents, Edrick and Nixaliz Jabier, moved to Houston looking for more opportunity, their dad says. Both parents went to work as teachers at HISD's Crespo Elementary Fine Arts Magnet with their sons in attendance there. Now Edrick is an assistant principal at Marshall Elementary in the HISD, while his wife is still at Crespo as a first grade bilingual teacher.

Meanwhile the boys, who say their gained confidence in preparing their original speeches for the MLK competition, have seen a myriad of acting opportunities open up for them. Nhedrick was in Disney's Secrets of Sulphur Springs last year and The Park which is making the rounds at festivals. He is represented by the Page Parkes Talent agency.

Xedrick was in the 2018 movie Hard Start with his brother and has worked with Houston Grand Opera and was in a commercial for JCPenney. He just finished filming a Netflix project with Mo Amer, the stand-up comic and writer from Houston. Xedrick is still at Crespo and Nhedrick is a freshman at Summer Creek High School in Humble ISD which is nearer to where they live. They also do theater in their schools.

This year's theme in the 26th annual competition for students from Houston ISD schools is: “How would Dr. King assess our progress in achieving his vision for America?” Students from 23 elementary schools are competing.

At Crespo every fourth and fifth grader gets the opportunity to participate in the MLK competition, Nhedrick said. "As a fourth grader I thought it was important for my voice to be heard and what my thoughts were of the world. I was really surprised when I won. There were so many great speeches."

Xedrick wanted to compete as well when he got old enough. Help came from his older brother, parents, Crespo theater teacher Gerald Murray and Crespo dance teacher Tiffany Gilbert, who are in charge of working with the students in the competition.

"The main reason I wanted to participate was that I wanted to share my thoughts with the world about why Dr. Martin Luther King is so important," Xedrick said.

He recited some lines from his speech:
If all men were created equal, then why did Rosa Parks get arrested for not giving up a seat?
If all men are created equal, then why were people of color getting arrested for just sitting at a restaurant?
If all men were created equal, then why did African American kids have to go to different schools?
And if all men are created equal, then why were people forced to use different water fountains?
Although the acting opportunities are exciting for the boys and their parents, speaking like educators, both parents said the primary focus is on academics and the boys have to keep their grades up. "That's the most important thing for us as a family, to have academics first," Edrick said.

Asked if the boys' acting talents some from their parents, Nixaliz and Edrick laughed. "Not at all. That was all discovered when they started with the theater program [at school]," Nixaliz said. Xedrick started in pre-K and Nhedrick started in second grade. "His teachers saw this talent on them when we arrived," she added. "That we never knew," Edrick said.

"When Nhedrick won the competition for MLK everything started opening so many doors. That was the spark," Nixaliz said.

"I feel that Martin Luther King not only represented Black kids, but he represented all minorities," said Nhedrick. "He's a symbol and a beacon and people can look up to him as a symbol of hope. The competition helps kids understand who he really was and how they can look back and do better in the future."

"Dr. Martin Luther King did so much to inspire everybody: adults, kids, everybody," said Xedrick. "He's gotten beat up, stabbed and he never gave up. I want the kids to know to never give up."

The MLK semi final competition is scheduled for Friday, January 7 at 9 a.m. at Thompson Elementary. The finals will be held Friday, January 14 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church of Christ, 500 Clay.
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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